University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT
President, Hyperblimp, LLC
“Silently Recording the Behavior of Endangered Right Whales Using Radio-Controlled Hyperblimp Airships”
Since the 1970s, surveys have been made of southern right whales by flying near the shores of Peninsula Valdes, Argentina, in a light airplane, to observe and photo-identify individual whales, record their locations and the presence of calves. As flight costs have increased, aerial surveillance has decreased. Also, planes are noisy and low altitude flying is risky. Although this population has been recovering since the 1970s, more than 300 calves died along Peninsula Valdes since 2005. The need to collect information about this endangered species, and to better understand the causes for the recent deaths, is vital to their long-term survival.
Mr. Slusser, Mr. Geery, and others plan to test a new design of a radio-controlled blimp or airship (as shown at www.hyperblimp.com), with remotely operated, gimbaled cameras. This design of airship can silently hover for long periods, to observe, photograph and identify animals, causing little disturbance.
Initial trials will be conducted in Utah, on animals such as buffalo, antelope, and deer. The hyperblimp will then be used to study right whales. Southern right whales are present May through December, when researchers can document them, observe breeding habits, behavior, and demographics. If recording is successful, the next step will be collecting exhalation samples for evidence of disease. Hyperblimps could reduce the cost of aerial surveillance in Argentina by 90% and be of great use in studying other animal species. Hyperblimp LLC intends to use these airships for other environmental and humanitarian applications as well.
FMI: Right Whales: The Instituto de Conservacion de Ballenas